JACKSONVILLE – If there was any remaining doubt about wide receiver Harry Douglas’ knee, he put it to rest with his second scintillating performance of the exhibition season.
Douglas sparked an otherwise shoddy offensive performance with a 76-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the 15-13 loss to the Jaguars at EverBank Field on Friday night.
The Falcons dropped to 0-2, while Jacksonville, which was humiliated by New England 47-12 in its last outing, moved to 1-1 in the exhibition season.
“It just seemed like we were out of sync offensively,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. ”We have some things that we definitely have to correct and that’s what the preseason is for.”
Other than Douglas’ big play, the Falcons did not mount another touchdown drive. Also, they failed to take full advantage of great field position after two first-quarter turnovers.
“When we get the ball on the plus-side of the 50, we have to make some hay and get some points,” Smith said.
The starters played the entire first half and could amass just three first downs. Running back Michael Turner had seven carries for 14 yards. Julio Jones had two catches. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez had one catch each.
On Jacksonville’s opening possession, cornerback Brent Grimes intercepted Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard and returned the pick 62 yards.
The offense had the ball at the Jaguars’ 42. They picked up one first down, but the drive stalled at Jacksonville’s 21. Kicker Matt Bryant put the Falcons ahead 3-0 with a 40-yard field goal.
On Jacksonville’s ensuing possession, wide receiver Cecil Shorts fumbled on a reverse. After a mad scramble, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon recovered the ball at the Jaguars’ 37-yard line.
The promising drive stalled after Ryan was called for intentional grounding on third-and-2 from Jacksonville’s 31.
“Our defense did a great job,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “As an offense, we always like to capitalize on those turnovers.”
Punter Matt Bosher came on and booted a 50-yard punt when the Falcons wanted him to pin the Jaguars inside the 20.
Jacksonville put together a 13-play drive that was capped by Josh Scobee’s 26-yard field goal to tie the score, 3-3.
There was an exchange of punts before Douglas got loose. On a third-and-5, Douglas was open over the middle, he shook a defender and then broke outside. Jones gave him a block and Douglas was sprinting up the sideline for the score.
“I’m here to do whatever they ask me to do — inside, outside, slot — whatever,” Douglas said. “I love the offense.”
Douglas also had a nice touchdown grab last week against Miami.
The Falcons added a field goal in the third quarter to move ahead 13-3. But like in the exhibition opener when they blew a 17-0 lead, the reserves couldn’t hold off the Jaguars.
The Jaguars added two quick field goals, one after Antone Smith fumbled on a kickoff return and then received a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Luke McCown to wide receiver Armon Binns to move ahead. They held on for the victory.
Cornerback Dominique Franks, who is having a spectacular training camp, started for Dunta Robinson. He played strong, but missed a couple of tackles during Jacksonville’s touchdown drive.
“I left some plays out there that I should of have made, but that’s something that I can correct,” Franks said. “I need to get a better feel for what receivers like to do in certain coverages.”
It was Franks most extensive action as the Falcons are trying to decide who’s their No. 3 cornerback. Franks was getting his chance to move past Christopher Owens.
“I didn’t want to look at that too closely and get myself over-excited,” Franks said. “I just wanted to go out there and make plays. I should have made those two missed tackles. They were big on that drive to take the lead. That’s something that is easily corrected.”
Franks doesn’t need to beat himself up for the missed tackles. He wasn’t the only defender missing tackles. Some contend that the lack of live tackling in practice leads to those type of plays in the preseason.
“We have to just get back in there and get more reps to get really focused on tackling,” middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “We don’t do enough tackling. When we get out there, it’s preseason and you know guys are not ready for that.”
The Falcons will now point to their third exhibition game at Pittsburgh next Saturday.
The game will be heavily anticipated as defensive end Ray Edwards, the team’s prized free agent signee who is recovering from knee surgery, may make his Atlanta debut.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog